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Jacksonville votes to allow scouts to camp overnight in city parks

The Jacksonville City Council last week approved a request to promote overnight camping at certain parks and recreation locations.

The request was made by local scout troops who want to camp at these city cites to earn merit badges and complete certain community service projects.

The council adopted Ordinance 2013-2, which regulates its city parks.

“The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Commission and the city council has determined that updating provisions of the parks and recreation code are required to appropriately update park provisions and enhance the opportunity presented to the city of Jacksonville to foster community service projects ad growth available to our young citizens enrolled in the Boys and Girls (respective) Scout programs,” according to the ordinance.

The ordinance makes exceptions to allow boy and girl scouts to camp in city facilities.

The ordinance allows “Any Boy or Girl scout troop(s) who is/are given written permission by the parks and recreation director to camp out in conjunction with an authorized cleanup/service project in Dupree Park, Paradise Park or Reed’s Bridge Preservation Park.”

In addition, any preservation group participating in the annual re-enactment celebration within or near Reed’s Bridge Preservation Park shall be permitted, according to the ordinance.

“Special camping provisions are provided in the shooting range ordinance for that park property,” continues the ordinance.

The ordinance does not make exceptions for other groups to go camping in city parks.

“It shall be unlawful to set up or sue tents, shacks, or any other temporary shelter for the purpose of overnight camping, nor shall any person bring in or leave in a city park after closing hours any structure or vehicle to be used or that could be used for such purpose, such as a house trailer, camp trailer, camp wagon, or the like,” states the ordinance.

In other business, the council held an ordinance to provide the public more time to comment on a proposed Resolution 693 (2013-2) that would authorize the transfer of ownership for certain property between the 1200-1300 blocks of Marshall Road which would clarify and certify property lines and responsibilities of the city in future development of the area.

According to the resolution, the property is encompassed by the former Vertac Chemical Plant site which was a former Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site that was decontaminated through requirements imposed upon the responsible parties by the federal governments and the courts.

“After 25 years of oversight, the U.S. District Court of Eastern Arkansas, the Honorable Price Marshall presiding, has determined it is in the best interests of all to formulate closure of the consent decree by which the real property is currently controlled,” states the resolution. “While continual monitoring and maintenance of certain portions of said property will be conducted by the responsible parties and/or their successor entities with EPA oversight, boundary lines have been established for the real property donated to the city of Jacksonville that contained no contamination. As a result and to insure the city has no ownership of any real property requiring continual monitoring and/or remediation at the former plant site, a survey has been completed and title to certain properties is required to be transferred to insure proper chain of title and appropriate restrictions apply to all relevant property.”

According to the ordinance, certain restrictions for future development of the real estate shall satisfy all federal safety requirements for the property.

“City leaders are aware and agree to the restrictions for future development for the portions of property that the city will have title to and commit to restrictive covenants for said property that will forever insure property development, appropriate future use of the property and no harm to the citizens of Jacksonville.”

The presentation of the resolution comes after the Jacksonville City Council conducted public hearings for citizen input at three recent consecutive public city council meetings.

“The council believes it to be in the best interests of the citizens of Jacksonville to authorize transfer of certain real estate and acceptance of certain real estate with appropriate restrictive covenants to insure the city of Jacksonville has title to only that property which contains no contaminants,” states the resolution.

The proposed resolution also authorizes Mayor Gary Fletcher and City Clerk Susan Davitt to execute and submit the appropriate documentation required to accomplish the property transfer.

“The council understands that no monetary amount will be exchanged between the parties,” continues the resolution.

All transfers would be contingent upon approval of by the Eastern District of Arkansas, U.S. District Court, according to the resolution.

The resolution is expected to be discussed again when the council meets again in February.

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